SteakNo8Time for a dose of stoner metal by a band with a name that sounds like the menu in a cheap steakhouse, but which actually has an impressive pedigree. These boys famously won a battle of the bands contest in their native Belgium a few years back. Okay, I can hear the uncharitable chuckles at the back there – Belgium? And I suppose we’ve all come across bands that have won some award or other accolade before quickly disappearing into the dust of ages.

But let’s also bear in mind that they were an average age of 15-and-a-half at the time and they were whittled down from 100 bands. They’re now on their fourth album and one which easily tops most of the vast army of stoner-sludge bands that comes out like a wave of suspicious-smelling smoke from the US every year.

Steak Number Eight combines sludgy guitars and fret board-harassing leads that will probably bring to mind a number of bands and should have fans of this sort of stuff excitedly reaching for their rolling kits. I note the name-checks with the likes of Pelican and Isis but to be honest this release has more in common with Baroness with the infectious groove of Queens of the Stone Age thrown in.

They’ve clearly got a real knack for driving riffs and vocal-led melodies that are superbly balanced by some glittering post-rock breaks. So, for example, just when you think that the central theme of Gravity Giants might wear thin you’re treated to an anthemic reprise which coils its way into the track before billowing out in one almighty exhale.

That bass line intro on Charades also blends in beautifully as the track opens up into an undulating wave of guitars and vocals and is all well crafted for an evening of rolling your own. While heavier tracks like Cheating the Gallows would no doubt work great live, whether your a standing at the back, taking it all in kind of person, or keen to get involved down the front. But really this is all about the trip – as album finale Space Punch handily reminds us.

It’s all difficult not to like and appreciate and its psychedelic-tinged tentacles gradually make their way inside your fingertips and down your limbs into your brain. The only drawback with Steak Number Eight, and as good as this album is – faultless almost and no doubt one that genre addicts will find addictive – is that I feel the band is selling itself short. Because whereas this is undoubtedly top notch stuff, produced with energy, technical wizardry and its own signature, there are gaps here. The reality is that this could have been seamless. Kosmokoma is a fine album but not enough to catapult this band into upper ranks where it truly belongs.

(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)